Virginia, US

Nov 14 2018

European Commission Makes Progress on Brexit Contingency Planning

European Union

The situation

On November 13, the European Commission published a contingency action plan and other documents in preparation of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union on March 30, 2019, in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

A closer look

The contingency action plan contains the following provisions:

  • UK visa policy proposal. The Commission proposes exempting UK nationals from entry visas, as of March 30, 2019 if there is no Withdrawal Agreement, provided that the United Kingdom applies the same exemption to EU nationals. If a Withdrawal Agreement is reached, this same legislation would apply after the transition period is over (January 2021), because UK nationals will continue to be visa exempt during the transition period. This proposal will have to be adopted by the European Parliament and the Council to enter into force.
    • Impact. If the proposal enters into force, UK nationals will not need entry visas to enter the European Union, regardless of whether a Brexit deal is reached.

  • Traveling to the European Union. If there is a no-deal Brexit, although entry visas to travel to the European Union will not be required, UK nationals will be subject to border checks at the Schengen external borders to review the purpose and conditions of stay, among other items. UK nationals will no longer be entitled to use the separate lanes dedicated to EU/EEA/CH citizens. Other restrictions that would apply to UK nationals include:
    • Short stays. UK nationals will be limited to a maximum of 90 days in the Schengen area in any 180-day period.
    • Longer stays. UK nationals, with possible exceptions, will require a residence permit or a long-stay visa.
    • Impact. Under a no-deal Brexit, as of March 30, 2019, UK nationals will encounter longer wait times at the external Schengen borders, will be limited in their stays within the Schengen area, and will have to obtain required immigration documentation in advance of longer stays within the area.

  • UK citizens’ rights. The Commission urges EU Member States to take a generous approach to the rights of UK citizens already residing in the European Union if there is a no-deal Brexit.
    • Specifically, the Commission encourages EU Member States to accept UK nationals’ residence permit applications before March 2019 to ensure a smoother transition for these nationals.
      • Impact.  UK nationals will not have to wait until the day the United Kingdom leaves the European Union to file applications, which will help to avoid gaps in UK nationals’ residency documents.
    • Additionally, the Commission advises EU Member States to consider the duration of residence of UK nationals prior to Brexit in building EU long-term residency rights.
      • Impact. Long term residency rights will allow UK nationals to enjoy access to employment, education, core social benefits in their host EU country similarly to the citizens of that country.



The European Commission has prepared this contingency plan because several major items of the withdrawal deal – including the Irish border issue – have not yet been agreed upon by the United Kingdom and the European Union, making a no-deal Brexit seem likely.

Looking ahead

Both the European Union and United Kingdom remain committed to reaching a Withdrawal Agreement in time, and negotiations to reach such an agreement are ongoing simultaneously with the current contingency planning.

If a Withdrawal Agreement is reached, there would be a transition period until December 31, 2020, during which both UK and EU nationals would continue to enjoy the freedom of movement within the European Union, with some restrictions. If no Withdrawal Agreement is reached, in principle any special treatment for UK nationals in the European Union and vice versa would cease as of March 29, 2019, although both sides have regularly committed to reciprocal fair treatment of citizens.

How companies can prepare

Fragomen will be hosting a webinar series in December to discuss preparedness and planning for Brexit in the European Union.  An announcement will be sent when registration opens for this webinar series. For questions, please contact [email protected].

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen or send an email to [email protected].